How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

As more of us work from home, we are at a higher risk of developing overuse injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a common condition that is associated with pain, numbness, and tingling in the wrist and hand. This occurs when the median nerve, one of the major nerves that travels through the forearm and hand, becomes compressed as it travels through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Common causes of this compression and irritation to the nerve include repetitive hand and finger use when typing and writing as well as poor wrist and hand positioning while performing these activities. Here are some suggestions to help prevent and treat this condition:

  1. Take breaks – If you find yourself doing a lot of typing throughout the day, make sure that you are taking a 10 minute break from typing every hour at the minimum.
  2. Keep your wrists neutral – Avoid excessive bending of the wrists in either direction to avoid increased compression on the nerve. As you type, try to keep your wrists in a neutral or slightly extended position
  3. Focus on posture – The positioning of the rest of your body, including your head, neck, and shoulders can contribute to symptoms all the way into the hands. As you sit at your desk, make sure that you maintain good posture by keeping your head upright, shoulders back, and avoiding a slouched posture.
  4. Stretch – Tightness in the muscles of the wrist and forearm can contribute to your symptoms. As you are taking a break every hour, stretch the muscles by pulling your hand and fingers back towards you and holding for 30 seconds at a time, as seen in the picture below.

 

How does Movement Help Injuries Heal? I’ve got a bone to pick.

If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist, you know that exercise is usually prescribed as the primary treatment for a number of injuries and conditions. Clearly exercise has numerous benefits, but it can sometimes seem counterintuitive to place resistance or load through an injured area — doesn’t it need time to rest and heal? The short answer to that question is generally yes, especially immediately following the injury; however, the appropriate amount of movement and exercise can actually promote healing and recovery.

My goal is to help you understand just how exercise helps restore normal functioning of injured body tissues. This article is part of a series that will discuss how various types of tissue depend on movement to recover. Today’s subject is bone.

In the case of fracture, bone is the exception to the rule of “get it moving ASAP.” Allowing a bone to fully heal is vital to maintaining its structural integrity throughout the rest of your life. However, once it is healed and in cases where the bone has begun to weaken such as osteoporosis or osteopenia, weight-bearing exercise is vital to maximizing its strength and reducing the risk of re-injury.

Exercise helps strengthen bone by increasing its density. Density is typically measured by something called a DEXA scan, which is used to diagnose osteoporosis/osteopenia. Over time, the density as measured by these scans is maintained or increased in response to exercise. However, these increases are site-specific, meaning that exercises involving your lower body will only increase the density of the bones in your lower body (and vice versa with your upper body). Of particular note is that in postmenopausal women — the demographic most affected by osteoporosis — exercise is shown to mitigate losses in bone mineral density. So, after speaking to your physician or physical therapist about which exercises are best for your condition, it’s time to get moving!

Now let’s get specific about the best types of exercise. Exercise that is in an upright position against gravity is considered most effective for improving bone health. Such exercises include walking, jumping, and resistance training with weights or bands. Bone thickens in response to these types of exercise because gravity and the physical pull of the muscle tendons on our bones elicits an adaptive response. Exercises such as swimming, while still very healthy for us, aren’t quite as effective for improving bone density.

Written by: Dr. Scott Newberry

What is a Meniscus Tear?

A meniscus tear is a common injury that occurs to the cartilage in the knee. Each knee contains 2 menisci that help to absorb shock in the knee and stabilize the joint. An injury to these structures can occur as a result of a quick movement such as forcefully twisting the knee while putting weight through it. This can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty extending the knee fully.

If the tear is severe enough, surgery may be necessary. However, research studies have shown that improvements in pain and function are similar whether you have surgery or physical therapy.  With that being said, going through a course of physical therapy first is the best course of action in the majority of cases and will help to determine if further action such as a surgery is necessary if you do not fully recover from the injury.

If you have suffered from a meniscus tear, a physical therapist will help you to decrease your pain, restore the movement in your knee, and work on strengthening and stabilizing your knee joint. The goal of physical therapy is to allow you to return to all of the activities that you enjoyed previously while simultaneously decreasing the risk of an injury occurring again.

Written by: Dr. David Reymann
Staff Physical Therapist at Harbor Physical Therapy

The Importance of Prehab

Prehab, short for pre-habilitation, is a type of intervention intended to prevent injury or to prepare one for surgery in order to optimize post-surgical outcomes. In the world of physical therapy and athletics, this can include incorporating strength and stability exercises into athletes’ training programs to prevent injuries when they are on the field.

Prehab can also be helpful for those requiring any type of orthopedic surgery such as a joint replacement or ligament reconstruction. By building up strength and general fitness prior to surgery, the risk of complications post-operatively decreases and the functional recovery tends to be quicker. During prehab, patients are educated on what to expect after surgery which can help them feel more prepared for any adjustments they may have to make including any activity modifications.

Prehab is covered by all health insurances.  This is due to health insurances also seeing the benefits of prehab as it cuts down on sport injuries and duration of physical therapy required after a surgery.  If you are interested in learning more about how you could benefit from prehab, feel free to email Harbor Physical Therapy at info@machtmedicalgroup.com to learn more.

Written by,
Dr. David Reymann

 

Tips to Decrease Your Fall Risk at Home

As everyone is stuck inside more often these days, it is important to take a look at your home environment to decrease your risk of having a fall. Falls in the elderly population can lead to serious injury and should be avoided at all cost. Multiple factors place a person at an increased risk for falls. These factors include advanced age, poor vision, muscle weakness, poor balance, fear of falling, and home and environmental hazards. There are many steps that you can take to prevent falls. Here are just a few:

  1. Keep rooms in your home free of clutter to prevent tripping.
  2. Walk in shoes that have a good grip. Avoid wearing socks to decrease your risk of slipping.
  3. Keep your home well-lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see.
  4. Make sure that all rugs in the home, as well as the bathtub and shower floor are nonslip.
  5. Stay active to improve strength, balance, and flexibility.

If you have a history of falls, are fearful of falling, or feel that you have problems with walking, balance, or decreased strength, a telehealth appointment with one of our physical therapists may be right for you. This will allow the therapist to identify possible hazards in your home in addition to providing you with appropriate strength and balance exercises.

Written by Dr. David Reymann

How to Prevent Back Pain with Household Chores

If a household chore is not done with proper biomechanics, you are more likely to strain you back muscles resulting in pain.  Lots of household chores are repetitive so it is a good rule of thumb to use both the right and left side of your body equally to avoid an overuse injury.  Check out the tips below highlighting some specific household chores and body positioning that will decrease strain on your back muscles.

  1. Washing dishes– to decrease back strain at the sink, open the base cabinet and put your foot up on the ledge to become closer to the sink.
  2. Vacuuming– Walk with the vacuum or lunge forward onto one foot keeping your back straight, rather than bending forward with each push of the vacuum.
  3. Making the bed– Put one knee down on the bed when fastening a sheet to the corner of the mattress or squat to fasten it.
  4. Grooming– Put one hand down on the counter in the bathroom while using the other to brush your teeth or shave. Also, you can put a foot up onto the ledge of the base cabinet as in the kitchen.

Stretching 101

To get the most out of stretching to prevent injury and muscle soreness, dynamic stretching should be performed before your workout and static stretching performed after your workout.  If you perform a static stretch before you workout, there is more potential to tear a muscle due to the lack of blood flow at the muscle.

To get the most benefit out of static stretching, make sure you hold the stretch at a point you feel a pull within the muscle. The stretch should be held between 15-60 seconds.  Perform 2-3 repetitions of each stretch on both sides of your body. If a stretch is painful, you should decrease the range of motion of the stretch.

If you are unsure what muscle groups to stretch in association with your workout, contact Harbor Physical Therapy.  Our physical therapists can create you a customized stretching program.

Fall Prevention

Falls in the elderly population can lead to serious injury and should be avoided at all cost. Multiple factors place a person at an increased risk for falls. These factors include advanced age, poor vision, muscle weakness, poor balance, fear of falling, and home and environmental hazards. There are many steps that you can take to prevent falls. Here are just a few:

  1. Keep rooms in your home free of clutter to prevent tripping.
  2. Walk in shoes that have a good grip. Avoid wearing socks to decrease your risk of slipping.
  3. Keep your home well-lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see.
  4. Make sure that all rugs in the home, as well as the bathtub and shower floor are nonslip.
  5. Stay active to improve strength, balance, and flexibility.

If you have a history of falls, are fearful of falling, or feel that you have problems with walking, balance, or decreased strength, a visit to a physical therapist can help to address these issues and prevent any falls in your future.

Written By: Dr. David Reymann

Home Safety Tips

Every year, there are many injuries and fatalities that are caused by a lack of home safety. There are many different ways you can modify your home and your daily routine to ensure safety. Here is a list of home safety tips:

1. Secure scatter rugs.

2. Have contrasting colors on transitions into different rooms, stairs, and different level surfaces.

3. Avoid using cleaners that make the floor slippery.

4. Always wear supportive shoes/slippers without an opening back.

5. Avoid walking in socks without grippers.

6. Have a night light to your bathroom.

7. Make sure steps have a non-slip surface.

8. Make sure you have proper lighting in all areas.

9. Make your bath/shower skid proof.

10. Purchase a non-slip bath mat.

11. Store heavy items below shoulder level.

12. Avoid wearing loose clothing while cooking on the stove.

13. Check expiration dates on food and medications.

14. Take your medication in a well-lit room.

15. If you have a medical history and or history of falls, invest in a medical alert system.

16. Remove clutter from your floors to avoid tripping.

17. Do not put too many electric cords into one socket.

18. Install a smoke detector.

19. If using a space heater, make sure it is 3 feet away from anything that could burn.

Common Injuries At the Gym

1. Muscle Strain– There are different degrees of muscle strains from a minor overstretching injury to a tear. To avoid muscle strains, make sure you warm up appropriately and do not lift more weight than you can handle.

2. Tendonitis-is caused by a repetitive strain to the tendon of the muscle. If you overwork a muscle, you can develop tendonitis.

3. Bursitis– is inflammation to the bursa. A Bursa is a fluid filled sac that provides decrease friction and helps to give a fluid movement to the joint. Avoid doing the same exercises all the time; change it up to avoid overuse of one particular area.

4. Back injury– due to placing increase stress on your back muscles with exercises. Avoid forward bent over postures at the gym. Bend with your knees and tighten your abdominal muscles during exercises. This will help decrease the likelihood of a back injury.

5. Shoulder impingement injury– can occur when you overuse the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff muscle can rub against the top part of the shoulder blade, producing pain. Avoid overhead weighted exercises.

If you experience pain while you are working out, you should stop and apply ice. If the pain persists for more than 3 days, contact your physician or your local physical therapist at Harbor Physical Therapy.